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Home is Where the Heart is - Visiting Taiwan 2017

I had been gone for 354. 354 days since I left the place that I now call a 2nd home. 254 days since I left the children who have touched my heart and taught me about myself in so many ways. 354 days since I last had a delicious dumpling or red bean bun. 354 days that I have been dreaming about the day I could return back to Taiwan...and finally...today arrived!

June 28, 2017 I was able to board a plane headed back to Taiwan, and this time I wasn't full of worry, questions, and regret; no this time...I was as excited as a little school girl, I couldn't stinking wait!!

Day 1. Travel {{Stuck in Korea for 14 hours // finally landed in Taiwan}}

Day 2. Hsinchu{{visited Xinfong Elementary // lunch at favorite dumpling shop // dinner with friends}}

Day 3. FuLong & Taipei{{visited FuLong Elementary // Shillin Night Market, Taipei}}

Day 4. Travel {{Elephant Mountain // Din Tai Fung dumplings // Chiang Kai Shek Memorial}}

Day 5. Beach{{FuLong Beach with Matthew & Ruth // finally landed in Taiwan}}

Day 6. Taipei {{Grand Hotel // Hsing Tian Kong Temple}}

Day 7. Taipei {{Presidential Office Building // Yingge Ceramic Street // 4th of July fireworks}}

Day 8. Taipei {{Junjian Yan Mountain // Tamsui Fisherman's Warf // Opera House}}

Day 9. Taipei & Kaohsiung{{Ximen Area // Lotus Pond // night market}}

Day 10. Kaohsiung {{bike riding // Cijin Island // Martyrs' Shrine}}

Day 11. Hsinchu{{Whiteford Family // park // night market}}

Day 12. Travel {{headed home...Vancouver layover here I come}}

So long and much love Taiwan...until we meet again!

{{Stay tuned for my quickie post on Vancouver as I travel home!}}

Brazil, Beaches, and Boating

Brazil Days 6, 7, 8 

I'm going to attempt to squeeze all of these days into 1 post, more for me than for anyone else ­čśĆ as I've been home a year now and I'm still working on these stinking posts! (on the other hand every time I sit down to work on these posts it feels like I'm reliving it all...so I guess that's a win!)

At the end of my last post I had just finished an obnoxiously long bus ride and landed at our hotel for the 7 of us just before midnight, so needless to say even though we were pumped to head to the beach...bed first!

Morning came and we awoke in ARRAIAL Do CABO straight east of Rio {{I dare you to google this place....BEAUTIFUL!}} We grabbed breakfast and were all ready for a day long boat tour of the various islands and relaxing in the sun and what do we open our eyes to...rain...and lots of it! But, not to be deterred...we persisted and had the most wonderful day of boating, swimming, sunning, and drinking! {{and as for the rain...honestly it ended up ending after our boat started and there were no regrets on our wonderful day!}}

The next morning we wake up to blue skies, puffy white clouds, a salt smell in the air, unicorns prancing in the yard...ok maybe no unicorns...but the day was gorgeous! We had every intention in the world to do nothing...so we did! We laid on the beach, ate fresh fruit, enjoyed some drinks and soaked in the wonderful Brazilian sunshine!

Late that afternoon we hopped back on the bus and headed back towards Rio getting "home" late once again. Saturday morning was my last day in Rio as I was flying back early that evening and I had just ONE thing left on my todo list...Sugarloaf Mountain {{great views, cable cars, and a wonderful breeze}} 

So long Rio...you were amazing!! And so many thanks Caitlin for your hospitality, travel guides, Portuguese lessons, && beach recommendations! {{and thank goodness I still have another 9 years on my visa for my next visit!}}

Day 5 in Rio {{Downtown Walking Tour}}

{{4.12.17}} - A quickie half day walking tour through downtown Rio

Yesterday's hefty walk through half of Rio left me a little on the tired side so I let myself sleep in a bit today before getting up and ready for the morning...a little street side tapioca crepe and fresh juice helped me out a bit too!  I also knew I had to be back to Caitlin's apartment by early afternoon so I figured a quick trip to downtown Rio would be the perfect fit. Remember from previous posts, I LOVE w.a.l.k.i.n.g everywhere while I travel, so naturally walking tours are a favorite of mine!

I found a couple different free walking tours of Rio online and combined the best of each and came up with my own itinerary and it was perfect!

Highlights of the day included: 

-- The Abby of Our Lady of Montserrat (ok but really...it was gated off and I only saw it from the street lol --
-- Candelaria Church in downtown {this was huge and beautiful inside && out! --
-- Bank of Brazil Cultural Center {BBCC - this was a pretty building to check out & it came with air conditioning inside ;)  } --
-- Checking out the Olympic torch --
-- The museum of Tomorrow {honestly I didn't have much interest on the items inside the museum, but if you ever find yourself in Rio you have to at least walk by it...holy architecture! } --
-- Mercado Popular {this was very reminiscent of Taiwanese crowded day markets selling everything and ANYTHING you can think of!} --
-- Wandering up and down side alleys checking out all the fun houses --
-- Eating street food...lots and LOTS of street food! --

I met Caitlin and her roommates back at their place later in the day when they got off of work early and we finished packing up and headed to the bus station for a nice long weekend away {I mean everyone needs a vacation from their vacation RIGHT!} Unfortunately for us what was typically a 1.5 to 2 hour trip turned into an over 3.5 hour bus ride dropping us off to our hotel late at night with just enough time to find our hostel and crash hard...goodnight Brazil...until tomorrow!

Rio Day 4 - Botanical Gardens & Impinima Beach

Day 4 {Tuesday 4.11.17} was my first official SOLO day in Rio...let the exploring begin!

I began my day out by grabbing some breakfast {{a Brazilian tapioca crepe filled with local cheeses} checking out a nearby church, and then heading to the lagoa with a walking trail wrapping around the lagoon with beautiful views of the water, the local neighborhood, and Corcovado Mountain (where the Christ Statue stands).

To me one of the biggest benefits of traveling solo, even if only for 1 day, is that you get to call the shots and decide what's worth seeing, doing, and {most importantly} eating! For me that typically means lots of walking, lots of street food, and lots of fun!

And that's just what I did! Walking over 2 miles I find myself hot, sweaty, and ready to explore the Rio Botanical Gardens. This wouldn't typically have been a high priority spot for me, but I had heard amazing things about this botanical garden in particular and figured "when in Rome!" ...and they didn't disappoint!

After a stroll through the expansive gardens I left the area and stopped nearby at a local stand to buy a frozen acai bowl {a popular and healthy Brazilian desert}. This was not my first time talking to a local here, but it always made me giddy inside knowing that if we spoke slow and simple enough I could use my Spanish to communicate with the local Portuguese speakers and have some idea of what was going on...languages are such an amazing thing!

Onwards && upwards I was headed to the beach...but of course...first a pit stop! I had marked a popular horse Jockey Stadium on my possible todo list for the day and when I realized I would be more-or-less walking right by it on my way to the beach I figured I had to stop ;)  Finally, tired, hot, and ready to cool off I made it to the ever famous Impinima Beach where I enjoyed dipping my feet in the sand and a cool drink before heading back to Caitlin's {at a several mile walk back though...I opted for the subway at this point...12 miles of walking was enough for one day!}

Caitlin had a spot she was dying to take me for dinner and I happily obliged. We stat and ate kabobs on the beach, watching the sun set over the water, while drinking our caipirinhas and all was well in the world...thanks Brazil for a spectacular day!

2017 in Review

HOLY MOLY ... that's about all I can say! I'm a tad behind on my little corner of the internet here, I guess you could say I've been staying busy.. But have no fear, even though I haven't been good about writing about my travels...I certainty have been traveling!

I figured January and all...what better way to get back to my little blog-o-sphere than to give you a quick year in review! If you've been reading with me for a while, this will probably look a little familiar... {{hey-o 2015 and 2016 years in review}} (you can click the lovely tan-ish colored words to take you to those previous blog posts if you happened to miss them!

Ok, the SUPER fast recap of 2017! I'm still living in Ashland. Finished teaching 2nd grade and am now back safe and sound in 1st grade at my same school. We had a family wedding in Mexico, spring break in Brazil, summer trip to Taiwan, back to school trip to Niagara & Toronto and still managed to get my little side business {{Nifty Thrifty by Tracy}} to various craft shows in the area! Hello busy year!

And without further ado...